“Put paid” (500th post!)
This is a red-letter post: the 500th one since I started doing Not One-Off Britishisms more than six years ago. The surprising thing is that the NOOBs keep coming.
I was alerted to the latest by Andrew Mytelka of the Chronicle of Higher Education, who noted that two op-ed pieces in the December 8 issue of the New York Times, both about Middle East politics, use the same British expression.
Bret Stephens (an American): “One piety is that ‘Mideast peace’ is all but synonymous with Arab-Israeli peace. Seven years of upheaval, repression, terrorism, refugee crises and mass murder in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq and Syria have put paid to that notion.”
And Roger Cohen (an Englishman): “Well, some would argue, Trump put paid to any notion that the United States is an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians.”
The OED defines “put paid to” as “to deal finally or effectually with; to place out of contention or consideration; to terminate or thwart (an aspiration, plan, etc.) conclusively.” The first citation is from 1901. It is definitely a Britishism, as seen in this Google Ngram chart showing the term’s frequency of use in British and American books:
As the red line suggests, there have been occasional appearances in U.S. sources. Some from the Times:
Sports article, 1970: “Rod Laver, the defending champion, put ‘paid’ to Cliff Richey’s astonishing run of successes and soundly spanked the little Texan 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, to take the Embassy indoor tennis final with the winner’s check of $7,200.”
Unattributed 1986 opinion piece: “Certainly, the deal with France and the French illusion that safety can be bought this way should put paid to the misty arguments that terrorism must be addressed by resolving its so-called political cause of Palestinian grievances.”
Essay by A.O. Scott, 2007: “The movie western had retreated from its position as a quintessential and vital form of American storytelling, undone by the same cultural tumult that had put paid to other manifestations of midcentury consensus.”
And from a 2012 New Yorker piece by D.T. Max, a use that doesn’t quite seem to fit the OED definition (except maybe ironically): “Thus my son and I, side by side supine in the bed, conquered ‘Treasure Island’ and ‘Robin Hood,’ ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘The Hobbit,’ and this week we put paid to ‘The Time Machine.'”
Over the past couple of years, every time I’ve done a NOOBs post, I’ve thought to myself, “That may be the last one.” But the experience of continually encountering new ones has put paid to that notion. See you at 501!
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